Determining the cheapest days to fly takes a little Internet savvy. Once you get the hang of it, however, you'll come up with all sorts of flight deals.
Knowing the Cheapest Days to Fly
There are a few general tips to keep in mind if you want to know the cheapest dates to fly.
Midweek is usually better. Sure, everyone loves the thought of a 10-day vacation, such as Sunday-to-Sunday. But you may save as much as $100 if you leave on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, and return the following week on one of those days.
Have flexible travel dates. Sometimes a day on either side of your desired date reveals far better fares. There are many reasons for this, one of which might be how other flight routes coincide with that date and airport.
Fly on holidays. It's nice to wake up on Christmas morning with the family, but since most people have that thought, the flights on days before and a couple of days after the holiday are the fullest and most expensive. If you can handle getting in a little later on the holiday, you'll save much more money. For example, this writer had the option of flying to San Antonio the day before Thanksgiving for $378 and returning the Sunday after. But leaving Thanksgiving morning and returning the Tuesday after reduced the fare to $225!
Other Ways to Save
Be flexible. Options for cheaper airfare listed above focused on flexibility, with good reason. If your travel plans are a little flexible, you'll have many more chances to save. Consider picking up standby or redeye flights, or tolerating a longer layover or multiple legs for a reduced fare.
Try another airport. Sometimes alternative airlines have reserve gates at smaller airports in metropolitan areas. For example, direct line Allegiant Air flies into Orlando's Sanford Airport, rather than Orlando International (although this may change after press time). You still arrive in the Orlando metro area, but flights are often 30-50 percent cheaper on Allegiant into Orlando-Sanford from select destinations.
Fly regional airlines. Depending on your location, you many land excellent deals on regional airlines such as Allegiant Air, Southwest, Jet Blue, and others. It's always worth a search to see if a regional flight is less expensive. One caveat: these flights often follow set routes on specific days. For instance, Allegiant Air flies direct roundtrip from Des Moines to Los Angeles, but only on Fridays and Mondays.
Buy roundtrip rather than one-way tickets. For many reasons, one-way tickets can be more expensive than a roundtrip ticket. Even if you're not sure when you're coming back, check the roundtrip fare anyway. But be careful -many airlines have policies against what they call "throwaway ticketing".
Sites to Know
Helpful sites that let you find the cheapest days to fly include:
- Kayak - This site searches multiple airline postings as well as other discount sites such as Priceline and Hotwire. Make sure to click "flexible" when you post your dates. This will allow Kayak to e-mail you with cheaper fare notices for different days.
- Airline.com - This comprehensive site also aggregates data from other sites, but you will have to exit the site to go to the others. Once on another page, click on the "flexible dates" option to pull up a chart of options.
- Bing Travel - Another flight site that searches more than 100 airlines and travel agencies to find the best deal. Use the "farecast" function to determine whether to buy now or later.
- Airfarewatchdog - Like the sites above, this company compiles a variety of fare searches for you. A difference is that you can put in your city and have the site look for cheap fares anywhere. So, if your travel plans and dates are last minute, this may be the site for you.